A few reviews of
Handbook of the Canadian Rockies
J. Derek Johnson, in
Alberta Naturalist, summer 1996:
"Numerous sidebars throughout the book add even more to its educational value. ... Excellent drawings of birds, mammals and butterflies have been provided by Matthew Wheeler. ... The use of full color has made a definite improvement to this edition. ... If a single volume can qualify as an encyclopedia then this one comes close. ... It is a delight to read. ... Gadd has an entertaining and often humorous writing style, sometimes with a message attached that he manages to get across without being too preachy. His holistic approach to the natural world offers the amateur naturalist a greater understanding and appreciation of a particular place. It doesn't really matter what your interest in natural history is, this book deserves a place in everyone's library."
John McFaul, in PIKA, journal of the Calgary Field Naturalist's Society, vol. 16, no. 2, and reprinted in Contact, journal of the Alberta Section of
Interpretation Canada, fall 1996:
"There have been many excellent books that have been produced to enhance our knowledge of the Canadian Rocky Mountains. By far the best of these was produced by Ben Gadd in 1986 and was titled Handbook of the Canadian Rockies. I have had the good fortune of leading many people on nature hikes to the Banff and Kananaskis area. I have used Handbook of the Canadian Rockies extensively and have found it to be a diamond mine of information. It has travelled many hundreds of kilometres in my pack and has proven to be highly durable. ...
The big improvement in the second edition is the use of full colour illustrations and photographs. In this regard Gadd enlisted the talented artist Matthew Wheeler to provide 333 colour pencil drawings of mammals, butterflies and birds. This colourization of the Handbook has made it much more appealing and usable than the first edition.
The colour illustrations in the geology section are clearer to understand than the black and white illustrations of the first edition. The colour plates showing various mountains and geologic formations are a great improvement. ...I would like to see more of them. ...
The colourization of this section [botany] makes the illustrations of the area's flora and fauna much more appealing to view and better for identifying the organisms under study. ...
The addition of the Seasonal Ecology chapter was a great idea. It really helps in tying together all the previous sections.
In conclusion, Handbook of the Canadian Rockies by Ben Gadd is an outstanding reference source for the natural history of the Canadian Rockies. ... This book should be on the shelves of all naturalists."
Diana Banville, in Toronto Field Naturalist, September 1996:
"If you want a field guide to end all field guides for the Canadian Rockies, as in the case of the first edition, this is the handbook for you. If you would rather just back-pack a smaller field guide on a favorite subject, such as Birds of North America ... or Rocky Mountain Wildflowers ... a good plan would be to carry Ben Gadd's handbook in your luggage for a wealth of information to refer to at the end of each day. ...Before your next trip to the Canadian Rockies, be sure to read what Ben Gadd has to say. His handbook (in both editions) is tried and true, accurate and readable, and obviously deserving of the awards it has won."
B.T. Anískowicz, in
Nature Canada, summer 1996:
"A One-book Library
Whenever I travel, particularly for the first time in an area away from home, I would like to take my entire natural history library along. That's impossible, of course, so I have to be contented with a few key field guides and hope to remember anything else I see long enough to check it out when I get back. Obviously, that's not an ideal situation.
The all-in-one field guides are meant to solve this problem, but I generally avoid them. They cover little more than the most common species, and the information is generally too scanty for the serious naturalist. Handbook of the Canadian Rockies is different, however; it is jam-packed with information on just about any topic you can imagine.
Ben Gadd, an independent interpretive guide in Jasper National Park, has obviously spent a great deal of time exploring the Rockies. His keen interest and love of the mountains are abundantly evident throughout the book, as are his talents as an interpreter. ...
Whenever possible, English and French names are provided, along with the Latin name. All of the more common species are covered, and some of the rare ones as well. The text about each species contains all sorts of useful information on life cycles, ecological data, when and where to find the species, edibility where applicable, how to avoid trouble (such as the hantavirus, altercations with bears or rutting bull elk, and what rock types are slippery) and other neat facts. Many cross references allow the reader to learn about associated or similar species. ...
Although the book is filled with facts, it is written in an easy conversational style. The text is interspersed with humour and Gadd's observations and insightful personal comments, which allows the reader to get to know the author as well as the subject. ...
What I particularly like about Handbook of the Canadian Rockies, however, is that it not only describes things, it tells you how they got there, and perhaps most importantly, explains the whys behind it all."
Kevin Van Tighem, in
Alberta Game Warden, summer 1996:
"Author breaks new ground again
"Andy Russell said it well when he presented the first Andy Russell Nature Writing Award to Ben Gadd in September, 1995: 'This man has done a hell of a lot of work putting this book together." ...
Ben Gadd made publishing history when his desktop-published first edition of the Handbook became a Canadian best-seller of more than 23,000 copies. This second edition, in full color and lavishly illustrated with diagrams, photographs and drawings of hundreds of species of plants and animals, has broken new ground again. ...
Gadd's book is a field guide and a reference book, but it's more than that. It is clearly a labor of love by a writer who cares deeply for the Rocky Mountains and their ecosystems. And it's also a philosophical treatise, though most readers and the writer himself may not recognize it as such. Gadd puts human use and human ambitions in perspective, showing that we are only one of many species that use the Rockies. ...
Ben Gadd's Handbook of the Canadian Rockies is one of a kind, a truly excellent book crammed with a phenomenal amount of information and frequent injections of humour and wisdom, and now color."
David Rooney, in the
Banff Crag & Canyon,
14 November 1995:
"Pack a kilo along for the hike
"How comprehensive can a guide book get?
Well, if you're talking about Ben Gadd's second-edition Handbook of the Canadian Rockies, you're talking about taking comprehensiveness to the Nth degree.
Gadd's Handbook is a hefty tome weighing in at-according to my scales, at least-exactly one kilogram, or 831 pages. ...
This is the kind of book you may want to lug around as you traipse through the mountain passes or if you're out for a day hike in the woods. ...
If you want only one comprehensive guide to the Canadian Rockies, Gadd's Handbook is definitely the way to go."
Barb Grinder, in Waterton Glacier Views, 13 September 1995:
"Handbook revision makes a good book great
"Handbooks or field guides aren't generally thought to have a lot of style. You praise them for their accuracy, clarity and breadth of scope, rather than the way they're written. But Handbook of the Canadian Rockies, by Jasper, Alberta, naturalist Ben Gadd, is a definite exception. And it's obvious before the book proper even begins.
Printed on paper with the highest recycled content we could find, but still not enough-c'mon governments: set some standards here,' Gadd notes on the back of the title page. That kind of wry, irreverent and slightly preachy humor is apparent throughout the book, as it was in the first edition, published in 1986. ...
[In the section on fish] Gadd notes that his book is mainly for naturalists, not fishing enthusiasts, so he tells the reader the answers to such intriguing questions as what happened to the fish in the Rockies during the last advance of the glaciers. He also notes that he doesn't describe spawning activity for each species separately because the behavior is so similar. 'The female produces gelatinous eggs ... the male emits sperm that fertilizes them. Often the pair lie side-by-side as this occurs; they quiver, mouths gaping open-fish sex must be exciting.' ...
He prefaces the book with pity for the amateur naturalist, having to lug around "bird books, flower books, tree books, fish books, snake books, bug books, geology books-filling up the pack, poking with their sharp corners." (The new edition has rounded corners.)
The handbook isn't as comprehensive as individual guide books devoted to a single subject, but the first edition has served our purposes well over nine years of hiking, biking and wildlife watching. It also makes a good quick desk reference, especially as its index is excellent. ...
Gadd has set out to create a functional, easy to read, one-volume field guide to the Canadian Rockies, and has done a commendable job."